Irish to vote on blasphemy ban

The Irish will vote on Friday on whether the blasphemy ban in their constitution should be lifted. Under the current legislation blasphemy can be punished with fines of up to 25,000 euros. The government says it wants to improve "Ireland's international reputation" with the amendment. Should blasphemy be a punishable offence?

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The Irish Times (IE) /

Put medieval relics behind us

A ban on blasphemy has no place in a modern constitution, argues The Irish Times:

“Protection for religious belief is indeed important, but it's already there; religious freedom will continue to be safeguarded under article 44.2.1. It's highly unlikely that anyone feels inhibited by the blasphemy ban, but that's not the point. A Constitution is not part of the criminal code; it is a statement of society's values. As such, blasphemy has no place in it. Across the world, repressive regimes use such laws to persecute, imprison and kill adherents of minority religions. It is a medieval crime that has no place in a pluralist republic.”

The Irish Independent (IE) /

Respect for religion is modern

The ban on blasphemy is an expression of religious tolerance and therefore fits in perfectly with today's Ireland, The Irish Independent counters:

“These provisions have hardly stifled public debate or resulted in a gagging of free speech in this country. To date, nobody has been convicted, or even prosecuted, under these laws. But that's not the point. We are told, we need to get rid of them because they set a bad example to other states, such as Pakistan, which mete out draconian penalties for blasphemy. ... The reactionary and regressive proposal contained in this referendum does not reflect the value that modern Ireland has come to exemplify - tolerance. This tolerance also includes tolerance of religious believers and the beliefs that are sacred to them.”

The Irish Independent (IE) /

Ban only serves fundamentalists abroad

A ban on blasphemy has no place in a modern constitution, The Irish Independent argues:

“Unfortunately, Ireland's blasphemy law has probably had more effect internationally than here in Ireland. Our blasphemy law has been quoted directly by countries such as Pakistan at the United Nations in making the case for the prohibiting of 'defamation of religion'. Our Supreme Court recognised in 1999 that our blasphemy law was an unenforceable anachronism. … On October 26, the people of Ireland can finally confirm what our courts and legislature have long-since recognised, that there is no place in Ireland's Constitution in the 21st Century for a blasphemy law.”

The Irish Times (IE) /

To hell with this referendum!

This referendum is a waste of time, The Irish Times rails:

“When it comes to freedom of speech in Ireland, there are bigger fish to fry. The current provision on blasphemy has far less impact on what people can say and hear than does the continuing high level of fees and damages in libel cases and the enormous cost of asserting freedom of information and other rights in court generally. We could also hold a referendum debate on something that matters, such as votes for emigrants or a special limitation on private property that would discourage land speculation, or on nationalising all primary school property.”